The F-word: It’s a democracy. We get who we deserve

2012-11-24 09:04

There is a disturbing and fallacious narrative that is unfolding ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung.

According to this trending thought, South Africa is not a real democracy because only 4 500 delegates at the ANC conference in Mangaung will elect the country’s next president.

It is a blatant distortion of the facts and typical of South Africans to dislike taking responsibility for their actions. ANC members will elect ANC leaders, as they or any other party is entitled to do.

It is a no-brainer that anyone who is elected to lead the ANC in Mangaung is most likely to emerge as the next South African president. Still, we need to remind ourselves that this will only happen if the majority of South Africans endorse that choice.

Voters in national general elections are not bound to go by the decisions of delegates at ANC elective conferences. That it seems inevitable the ANC will emerge victorious again in the next general election in two years time cannot be attributed to the ANC alone.

Yes, for 30 years or so, the organisation valorised the gun, but it has never put it to anyone’s head when they go to the ballot box.

If we do not like who the ANC chooses as its leaders, we are free to not vote for it instead of moaning about the choice of 4 500 who gathered openly to transparently elect their leaders.

As has happened since we became a democracy, voters have chosen the ANC of their own volition. They must live with the consequences of their choice. To say the ANC imposes a candidate on South Africans is disingenuous and a cop-out.

Nobody in their right mind would accuse DA members, who this weekend gathered to vote for their leaders, of being undemocratic because they exclude non-members when electing their leaders.

Neither can they be taken seriously if they were to allege, on the strength of the party feeling confident of winning the Western Cape elections again, that the party is imposing its leaders on the people of that province.

In a country where freedom of association is constitutionally guaranteed, you and I are free to join a political party of our choice and, with the notable exception of Cope, vote for leaders we want to lead our organisations.

At best, non-members can comment on the choices of the party by voting or not voting for that party.

Compared to any other party today, the ANC has thus far run a vibrant and democratic leadership race. It has been robust and entertaining.

Those who will vote, including sitting Cabinet ministers, have been very open about their preference even if this could easily cost them their jobs.

That the branches of Gwede Mantashe and Jeremy Cronin have voted to nominate Kgalema Motlanthe as the
new ANC president is a credit to the ANC’s internal democratic processes and not necessarily a shame on Mantashe or Cronin.

The helpless clamour over the ANC imposing itself on the electorate is born of either the arrogance that says those who vote for the ANC do so because they are stupid or because we do not want to take responsibility for the choices we make as South African citizens.

It is also convenient to bemoan our lack of say in who becomes state president, hence we blame ANC delegates for imposing leaders on us.

South Africans actually have a choice. There are 13 parties represented in Parliament and, come elections, many more
will vie for our votes. Nobody is obliged to vote for a party they do not want or hold in low regard. Nobody is obliged to vote at all.

Voters who complain about parties they vote for and blame it on opposition parties not presenting a viable alternative are also involved in another cop-out. It is the political equivalent of people who stick with abusive spouses because they believe all the good men or women are taken.

It may be more difficult to find a perfect spouse; but in a democracy, political parties and the electorate get the leaders and government they deserve.

» Follow me on Twitter @fikelelo

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